This year represents a fresh start for the Montreal Canadiens organization following a tumultuous 2021-22 campaign which resulted in a lot of turnover and change. The arrival of a new management group and an esteemed voice behind the bench have given several players a new lease on life heading into the new season.
Brendan Gallagher is someone who should benefit from the reset. The Habs veteran has something to prove and his performance in 2022-23 will dictate his future path with the franchise he has spent his entire career with.
More Offensive Production
The 30-year-old has struggled with a variety of injuries over the past few seasons, not to mention that an improbable run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2021 left him even more banged up and significantly shortened his offseason to properly recover.
The result was a significant drop in offensive production last year with just seven goals and 24 points in 56 games. He put up 14 goals and 23 points in 35 regular season games in 2020-21. That’s a far cry from the consecutive 30-goal campaigns he posted previously.
Perhaps most importantly, the toll on his body prevented Gallagher from playing the type of game that has made him such a vital member of the Canadiens for the past decade. He’s at his best when he’s wreaking havoc in front of the opposing team’s net, fishing for rebounds, retrieving pucks in the corners, and employing an aggressive forecheck. He’s not the fastest guy to begin with so any physical ailment that slows him down immediately makes him a much less effective player.
Given his hefty contract, which still has five years left on it with an annual average value of $6.5 million, Gallagher needs to bounce back and show that he can have an impact as part of Montreal’s top nine. He doesn’t have to produce at a 30-goal pace anymore, but he must be a problem for the opposition all while creating open ice and scoring opportunities for his linemates because he’s attracting attention. The passion and desire will always be there, his legs just have to follow suit.
Montreal’s Heart and Soul
It’s impossible to demonstrate Gallagher’s importance to the Canadiens with just numbers and statistics, his contributions go far beyond the scoresheet. Although he was passed over for the captaincy in favour of Nick Suzuki, he remains an important part of the leadership group as an assistant. Plus, general manager Kent Hughes and company hold him in the highest regard. He’ll be a valuable mentor to his young teammate as he takes on this new role and becomes the face of the franchise.
During a rebuild, the Habs need their heart and soul player to be ever-present in the team’s day-to-day activities, both on and off the ice, rather than nursing nagging injuries on the sidelines. The good news is that Gallagher feels healthy and rejuvenated heading into training camp next week after a summer of rest, recovery, and intense training. Surely, Martin St. Louis will push the right buttons and put his veteran leader in a position to succeed. It will be up to Gallagher to make the most of his head coach’s aggressive, offence-first approach and up-tempo style. If not, he could lose his place on the roster to one of the many prospects set to join the professional ranks in short order.
Gallagher, a former fifth-round draft pick, has been an underdog his entire career. This season, he’ll have to prove to his skeptics that he still has something left in the tank. He’s already built an enviable legacy in a Canadiens uniform and inspires his teammates simply by the way he plays. But Father Time doesn’t slow down for anyone, and he’ll have his work cut out for himself to show that he can still be a difference-maker. Otherwise, he and his contract will become a growing burden that the Habs will have to eventually deal with.
However, if there’s one player who can defy the odds it’s Gallagher so it would be wise not to write him off just yet because chances are, he’s about to make his doubters regret second-guessing him.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.